Lots of different foods are eaten on Chinese New Year’s for many reason. Some are eaten because their names have specific meanings, or sound like other words, in Chinese. Or, it might be because of their shapes or their colors too.
Here’s a sample of some of the dishes you will want to be eating on Chinese New Year’s:
- Dumplings: Traditionally prepared as a family and eaten at midnight on Lunar New Year’s Eve, dumplings are filled with meat or vegetables and shaped to mimic the form of a Chinese Yuanbao, or ingot–a type of currency used in China until the 20th century–to symbolize wealth. It is believed that as the dumplings cook, they recover family wishes of generations past. This is the one holiday where you can eat as many dumplings as you want without judgment.
- Tangerines and Oranges: Displayed as decorations and given as gifts, the tangerine is said to represent wealth and the orange brings good luck. While their bright vibrant colors lend themselves to the spirit of the day, their associations with wealth and luck originate in how similar the Cantonese word for tangerine is to wealth, and the Cantonese word for orange is to luck.
- Long Noodles: Also enjoyed on New Year’s Day in Western cultures is a dish of unbroken noodles said to represent longevity (sort of like a roll of toilet paper, errr, only different. A LOT different!). Those looking to live long, healthy lives should aim to eat at least one noodle whole – don’t break it!
- Niangao: A gelatinous, glutinous rice cake is served to help garner wealth or a higher salary in the coming year. “Niangao” in Mandarin literally means “sticky cake” but is identical to the Mandarin pronunciation for the words “year high” or “year tall.”
- Whole Fish: Pronounced “yu” in Mandarin, the word for fish is similar to that of abundance. The fish should be served whole, to represent a complete, healthy year. Some of the best whole fish dishes we recently had were at “Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet” in Flushing, NY, and “Beijing House” in Syosset, NY.
- Pomelos: The giant Chinese grapefruit is symbolic of prosperity as its Cantonese pronunciation can also mean “to have”.
- Pomegranates: Filled with bright red jewels, this vibrant fruit is a symbol of happiness, fertility, and is said to ward off evil spirits. It’s healthy for you, too!
Submitted for your Chinese New Year’s consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”